Contractors who get paid by cheque will see the money cleared within one working day under changes that bring the cheque clearing system up to date.

The Cheque and Credit Clearing Company said the changes would start to be phased in from October this year, but it won’t be until the second half of 2018 when all banks and building services will offer the faster service.

Right now, the cheque clearing process can take up to six days.

Under the new system, banks will be able to clear cheques by exchanging pictures of them, instead of physically transporting them back to the bank that issued them.

"These changes will put cheques firmly in the 21st century, delivering real and important benefits for the many individuals, charities and businesses that regularly use cheques," said James Radford, chief executive of the Cheque and Credit Clearing Company.

"Not only will cheques clear faster but banks and building societies may offer their customers the option of paying in an image of a cheque rather than the paper cheque itself."

Barclays currently allows some of its customers to pay in cheques via pictures on their banking apps, but they have to be cheques issued by Barclays. 477 million cheques were issued in the UK last year.

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